If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again!

Bet You Didn’t Know This About Dale Carnegie!

“Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.” (Dale)

You may know his name from his crowning achievement How to Win Friends and Influence People which made its debut in 1936; its 17th printing happened within months. 

By the time of Carnegie’s death, the book had sold FIVE MILLION copies in 31 LANGUAGES, and there had been 450,000 graduates of his Dale Carnegie Institute. 

BUT….did you know?

He was a believer, whose desire to live his dream speaks to many of us today.


He stepped out in faith on one of his core beliefs: “People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.”

After saving $500 (about $12700 today), Dale Carnegie quit sales in 1911 in order to pursue a lifelong dream of becoming a Chautauqua lecturer. This program was like TED TALKS today. It was hugely popular in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. (Named after the lake where it was first held). Chautauqua groups brought entertainment and culture for the whole community, with speakers, teachers, musicians, entertainers, preachers and leading specialists of the day.

Somehow this didn’t work out.


He practiced another core belief: “Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”

Instead of lecturing he ended up attending the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. He longed to be an actor but found little success in theater. What this did do, was give him experience as a communicator. 

NO JOB…living at the “Y”!

He returned to New York, UNEMPLOYED, nearly broke, and living at the YMCA on 125th Street. There he got the idea to teach public speaking, and he persuaded the “Y” manager to allow him to instruct a class in return for 80% of the net proceeds. 


In his first session, he had run out of material to talk about. Praying a quick prayer, he began IMPROVISING, and suggested that students speak about “something that MADE THEM ANGRY”. In doing so, he discovered the technique that made speakers unafraid to address a public audience. AND he found a unique ‘niche’ market.

From this 1912 début, the “Dale Carnegie Course” evolved. He found his TED TALK. Carnegie tapped into the average American’s desire to have more self-confidence, and by 1914, he was earning $500 (about $11800 today) EVERY WEEK.


Carnegie’s most successful marketing move was to change the spelling of his last name from “Carnagey” to Carnegie, at a time when Andrew Carnegie (unrelated) was a widely revered and recognized name. By 1916, Dale was able to rent Carnegie Hall itself for a lecture to a packed house….just as if it was named after him.

Carnegie’s first collection of his writings and course material was ingenious. He created a title that promised something and met a need – later entitled Public Speaking and Influencing Men in Business (1932). 


But did you know what was going on in his life at this point?


While teaching the masses how to solve problems, his first marriage ended up in divorce in 1931. On November 5, 1944, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, he married Dorothy Price Vanderpool (1913-1998), who also had been divorced. This relationship worked. In spite of social disapproval, he tucked his head down and kept moving forward.

His crowning achievement was his cleverest book title yet! He compiled his accumulated training material and launched: How to Win Friends and Influence People. 

He never claimed to originate material – he simply gathered it, practiced its effect on his audience and packaged it…BRILLIANTLY!

Dale’s quote: “The ideas I stand for are not mine. I borrowed them from Socrates. I swiped them from Chesterfield. I stole them from Jesus. And I put them in a book. If you don’t like their rules, whose would you use?”

His genius was in sales after all, and in speaking and in putting simple solutions into smart packaging. 

His strategy? “I am very fond of strawberries and cream, but I have found that, for some strange reason, fish prefer worms. So when I went fishing, I didn’t think about what I wanted. I thought about what they wanted. I didn’t bait the hook with strawberries and cream. Rather, I dangled a worm or grasshopper in front of the fish.”

Dale lived his philosophy and overcame his setbacks.

Hope this gives you hope. Do you see any strategies or principles you can use?

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9 thoughts on “If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again!

  1. Very inspiring! Did Dale Carnegie High Impact Presentation seminar a couple years ago – about $2000 and the toughest 2 days you could hope for – transforming for a speaker!

  2. Thank you. This was so timely! Going through some dark patches myself and at the same time helping others succeed makes one feel like: am I in the right place? Knowing more about his life gave me a freeing moment. Thank you for writing!

  3. this comes strait from heaven above…. and of course timely as always. I am trying again …. it is so encouraging – Thanks Lance for your generosity 🙂

  4. OMG! Dr. Lance do I? Yes sir. Thank you so much. You did it again……read my mail and answered it too. What an encouragement for me to keep trying and keep believing that God’s gonna do just what He said. Like Abraham, I hope against hope, when their seems to be no hope left for me. Again, thank you Doc.
    Appreciate you more than you know.

  5. Wow I didn’t know he was a believer. And I haven’t heard about the earlier part of his life (the setbacks) until now. 🙂 Awesome post!

  6. His book How to Win Friends and Influence People really works. I read it in high school and it helped me overcome my early shyness with people. My natural nature was shyness but his book allowed me to overcome it already come high school, at least in the area of making friends. This is again a prophetic post. I’m reading this at the same time I’m on a chat room with my dad who introduced and owned the book! Amazing! 🙂